On 20 and 27 September 2022 we held our first two Inclusivity Unlocked! webinars, exploring workplace inclusivity in the post-Covid world. The webinars were in the form of panel discussions with representatives from our six communities, sharing their experiences of working arrangements post-Covid and the challenges faced by the people they represent. Together they explored how organisations can make workplaces and working arrangements more inclusive, as well as examples of successes, and things that individuals can do on a personal level to help.

The lively discussions were very informative and both panellists and audience participants presented many ideas for how organisations and individuals can take positive steps to make workplaces and working arrangements more inclusive. These included:

  • Establish genuine connections – check in with colleagues – personal conversations and collaborative conversations make people feel valued.
  • Be pro-active in relation to your staff and your workplace – engage in open dialogues in which staff feel able to express their needs, and keep discussions ongoing.
  • Be open and self-advocate – don’t be afraid to express your needs to maximise your ability to do your job.
  • Be flexible – give staff choice and control where possible.
  • Encourage community and connection through things like affinity groups, chat outlets, social groups and sports teams which are inclusive and open to all.
  • Prioritise D&I – track and make use of data; educate staff.

These and other suggestions discussed in the webinars are summarised in the post below.


The panellists

The panellists at the part i webinar were:

The panellists at the part ii webinar were:

The discussions were chaired by IP Inclusive intern Susan Nelson, who is coordinating the Inclusivity Unlocked! programme. This blog post was written by Helen Smith (IP Inclusive Executive Support).

Recordings of the webinars can be accessed via the following links: part i and part ii.

Whilst the panellists represented each of their communities, they noted that their views, perspectives and opinions were their own, based on their experiences, and that these might be very different from other members of their community, particularly since many of the communities are very diverse.



The panellists noted a range of experiences post-Covid. They agreed on various positives that could be taken forward post-Covid, such as the recognition that remote working can be effective and the humanising aspects of seeing people working in their own homes.

Remote working

Remote or hybrid working was particularly valued by people with caring responsibilities, including parents and especially solo parents, for the flexibility it gives them in terms of time and household management. For example, childcare may be easier to arrange and manage, and school runs may be easier, if there is no commute to factor in. The level of trust was noted in this context too, with the recognition that actually people can be trusted to get their work done, even if they have to attend to household duties during the working day. It was suggested that the option to have hybrid working has been a great leveller of the playing field. It’s also valuable for those who do not currently have caring responsibilities to notice how this might be more achievable than they had previously thought.

Other panellists noted the value of remote working (be that at home or a different location) in terms of mental health, in that having no commute allows extra time, whether that be spent with family, socialising, exercising or pursuing hobbies – all can be beneficial for mental wellbeing.

Connection and openness

The value of seeing colleagues’ and managers’ homelife during pandemic Zoom calls, such as the realities of children and pets, was also discussed. It had a very humanising and connecting effect in that it opened up more personal conversations and allowed people to see a different side to their colleagues. The panellists were keen to see this level of connection and openness continue post-Covid.


Challenges post-Covid:


Of course, many challenges arose during Covid and some of these continue in the post-Covid world. Not being able to socialise in the same way during Covid affected many people and now we have the challenge of how to facilitate this in a way that works for everyone, whether they are working remotely or in the office. For example, it is important to make sure those who work from home more than in the office are made to feel included in office culture etc – and not just by token activities, but rather a true sense of inclusion.

Returning to the office

For people who have needs or requirements around returning to the office, Megan explained that in some cases Covid has accelerated discussions around reasonable adjustments when considering working arrangements. However, in other cases these have been overlooked. She also noted that for some, eg those with physical disabilities, the commute can be extremely demanding, and this should not be underestimated. Factoring in a timescale to adjust could be valuable in these circumstances.

In many organisations there may be people who feel or have felt anxious about returning to face-to-face work. Suggestions from the panellists to help those people included to be ready to listen, to recognise problems and actively communicate, to check the practicalities and make sure they work for the people involved, and to maintain the compassion that we all showed during the pandemic.


The main post-Covid challenge faced by trainees, newly qualified attorneys and other new staff is insufficient face-to-face interaction. Sanam explained that firms are finding that the time taken to train new staff has massively increased since before the pandemic and this is due to reduced in-person training/contact. As a result, many firms are requiring their junior staff to go to the office at least a few times a week in an attempt to increase the amount of face-to-face training they receive. Depending on the individual, this can be well-received or cause problems.


There are also challenges associated with visibility for those who continue to primarily work from home post-Covid. They may fear that having less physical presence than others could impact their chances of promotion or mean that their contribution isn’t recognised. This was seen as particularly relevant for those with physical disabilities who may be more likely to work remotely, and for women, who on average may find it harder to actively promote themselves, especially when there is reduced personal interaction with decision-makers.



The panellists had lots of ideas around the themes of staff engagement, pro-active management, open communication and connection.

Staff engagement

Staff engagement was seen as key in order to gather ideas and input from staff on working post-Covid. Establishing genuine connections and an open dialogue in which staff feel able to express their needs, as well as keeping discussions ongoing (as people’s needs change) are all important to help organisations get the best out of their staff. Personal conversations and collaborative conversations make people feel valued. They also build on the humanisation, connections and openness that were noticed as positives during the pandemic. The panellists felt that it is important to make clear to staff, particularly more junior employees, that any consultation is open, so that they don’t feel like there’s a “right” answer. Alternatively, it might be useful to allow for anonymous comments.

Active management

The value of active management was discussed by the panellists. In order to get the best out of the people they employ, supervisors and line managers were encouraged to make the effort to speak to their staff about how they are getting on and their ambitions, rather than waiting to be told. This could be particularly relevant when it comes to staff who work primarily from home, who are not as physically visible as those who work primarily in the office, or female members of staff, who on average may be less good at selling themselves than men.

Another example of active management was given with reference to scheduling a weekly team meeting. One way would be for a manager to simply impose a day and time, but what if the timing doesn’t work for some members of the team? Maybe the team includes a parent or carer who starts work later in the day, or an individual with noisy flatmates who are around at certain times each day. Would they feel able to respond to say that the suggested time doesn’t work for them? Even if the meeting request was intended as an suggestion, it might not be interpreted as such. Adding in an explicit invitation to respond if the timing isn’t convenient, or circulating a meeting poll whereby people can indicate their availability, gives all recipients permission to respond and takes the pressure off any adversely-affected individuals. It also sends the message that everyone is valued and treated equally – that there is no hierarchy.

In relation to any gesture or arrangement, the panellists made the point about it being meaningful. An example of a meaningful gesture might be that all meetings are hybrid with the option to attend in person or remotely. This is much more valuable than a token gesture of allowing someone to attend a particular meeting online as a one-off. It is a way of including everyone wherever they are located.

Open communication

The panellists noted the value of open communication particularly in allowing junior members of staff, eg trainees, to feel confident and at ease when reaching out to their supervisors or colleagues. For example, Sanam described the benefits of a trainee having a catch up scheduled with their manager every day. Whilst some days the trainee might choose to cancel this, the fact that it is available should it be needed is really valued. She noted anecdotally that for some trainees lack of communication with their supervisor is a real problem and a cause of stress, and has led to trainees changing jobs in some cases.

Office design

Many firms are relocating to new premises or refurbishing existing premises post-Covid. Several of the panellists highlighted the benefits of thinking creatively about how such new spaces are designed and used. Again, staff consultation – at all levels – was seen as critical for gathering information on how individuals work most effectively. Lockdown has taught us that everyone works differently and that this isn’t a bad thing. People have learnt more about how they work and to recognise what works best for them to help them work efficiently and effectively. So it’s worth asking staff what they need to thrive, and what challenges they face.

In terms of office design, Megan emphasised how accessibility should be kept at the forefront. Kevin explained how non-gendered toilets are inclusive of non-binary and trans communities, and can make a real difference to people feeling accepted. Janine talked about the value of private/quiet spaces for those who cannot work effectively in an open plan space, or who may need privacy for example to breastfeed or pump, or to take a private call. Josh highlighted how a prayer room can make a big difference to those who pray multiple times a day or those who follow meditative practices.



The panellists shared a range of ideas:

  • Inclusivity groups which include a diverse range of members from across an organisation. The group could be general or focused in one area, eg LGBT+. Meetings, debates and external speakers allow for discussions relating to a wide range of topics and even just being aware of the existence of such groups can make a real difference in terms of knowing that there is a voice there that you can join or rely upon.
  • Affinity groups which raise awareness of issues and provide a safe space to talk and exchange ideas. They are directed to specific groups of people with common interests and concerns, eg neurodiversity/neurodiverse family members; families/caring responsibilities. They are Board-approved, but not Board-led – instead they are more organic and group-led.
  • D&I group with representatives at Board level, which demonstrates the importance placed on this by the organisation.
  • Mentoring schemes for trainees.
  • Making D&I a priority, as much as business targets and values.
  • Tracking of diversity data and how this relates to career progression, as well as an awareness of which groups are under-represented in the organisation.
  • Direct and open communication between senior management and all staff.
  • Giving choice and control over place of work, with no pressure/influence.
  • Maintaining flexibility, even if there are policies. We all demonstrated flexibility and collaboration during the pandemic, so let’s continue this.
  • Social committees, sports teams.
  • Mental health first aiders.



The panellists and audience participants shared a number of tips.

For all:

  • Check-in with your colleagues.
  • Slow down and be kind to yourself – it will benefit you and your team.
  • Contribute to an open, safe and comfortable working environment.
  • Become an ally – take an interest in other people’s groups and educate yourself.
  • Share D&I information and articles within your organisation.
  • Let others know about D&I webinars, or arrange a meeting room to view a relevant webinar and invite others to join you, which can start and facilitate conversations.
  • Give yourself permission to take time to join communities and be involved.
  • Champion others and celebrate their successes.
  • Self-advocate:
    • Don’t be afraid to take active steps to increase your visibility.
    • Don’t be afraid to express your needs.
  • Maximise your ability to do your job.

For managers:

  • Be pro-active.
  • Spend time interacting in person.
  • Make people feel valued and part of a team.
  • Be open.
  • Demonstrate trust and the majority won’t abuse this.
  • Encourage community and connection through things like affinity groups, chat outlets and sports teams which are inclusive and open to all.
  • Facilitate random connections within your organisation by making use of technology such as the “Donut” app which allows for virtual “water-cooler chats”.
  • Anchor days – one day per month when everyone is invited to work in the office. These are not compulsory but generally people enjoy being together and connecting.



We are grateful to the panellists for all their thoughtful comments, practical suggestions and success stories of how organisations and individuals can make workplaces and working arrangements more inclusive. We plan to put together resources drawn from the series of Inclusivity Unlocked! events which will include some quick top tips for both individuals and organisations. In the meantime, for me, the three key take-home points from these webinars are:

  • Establish genuine connections – check in with colleagues – personal conversations and collaborative conversations make people feel valued.
  • As a manager, be pro-active in relation to your staff and your workplace. As a member of staff, be open and self-advocate – don’t be afraid to express your needs to maximise your ability to do your job. Engage in open dialogues in which staff feel able to express their needs, and keep discussions ongoing.
  • Encourage community and connection through things like affinity groups, chat outlets, social groups and sports teams which are inclusive and open to all.



We would love to hear your thoughts, comments or suggestions. Please do get in touch with us by commenting below or via email to [email protected].



Recordings of the webinars can be freely accessed:

  • Part i (with IP & ME, the IP Non-traditional Family Network and IP Out, recorded on 20 September 2022)
  • Part ii (with IP Ability, IP Futures and Women in IP, recorded on 27 September 2022)



Page published on 13th October 2022
Page last modified on 13th October 2022
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